Our more recent articles have been about brevity and lean storytelling. These concepts help you improve pacing and increase player engagement. While these ideas are helpful, they come at the cost of describing your world to its fullest. Removing irrelevant story elements might improve game play, but it definitely blunts some of the worlds details. Today we’re going to talk about how to flip this concept on its head to fully engage with the nitty gritty details your DnD world has to offer by using slice of life stories.
Slice of Life DnD Game Play
Slice of life is a genre of writing that deals with describing mundane experiences and telling stories through the use of naturalism. Naturalistic expression of a story is often without plot or direction and seems to be a series or random events that string together to form a character’s life.
Much like real life, this is exceedingly boring.
No offense to the slice of life readers out there, but the genre is punctuated by its profound lack of excitement. So why on earth would you ever use this as a template for DnD?
Because mundane to the character is exotic and exciting to the player in DnD.
World Immersion as Game Play
To set up a game focused on describing the world, you don’t need to write any plot. Plan out the sandbox and focus on the details of the world instead. This is a great writing exercise if nothing else. You’ll want to understand every detail of an area and you’ll have to think critically about how people go about their day to day routines.
If you really want to take advantage of this slice of life genre and make it fun for DnD you need to highlight the ways in which the world is different from our own.
The game play should be a sandbox. Choose an area you really want to flesh out and make notes for and then set your players loose in it. No plot hooks are given; players will create situations and adventures all on their own.
Once your players are in game take the time to describe details they ask for. If a player wants to go to a tavern, don’t just describe the standard fare. Discuss the things that are unique to this world. Come up with some fantasy food, describe magical drinks, talk about how this life contrasts with life in the real world. That’s what makes slice of life experiences fun!
Role Play Excessively
There is no point to a slice of life session in game and that’s by design. The best meta use of these sessions is to give your players a sense of connection to the world around them. When lizard men raid a village the players spent a whole day in it will make them care about that village so much more.
Because your players are going to be interacting with the setting, your primary mode of interaction will be role playing with them. The world is alive and you need to be that interaction, whatever interaction they choose. You might be playing anyone since your players are free to roam about. And remember, no plot hooks. You should never push the game forward in these sessions with events, only with role play.
Event driven scenarios end slice of life game play, but role play scenarios are all about the interactions. Your players can chat with anyone and weave themselves in and out of different parts of the world. Because of this you not only get to describe more of the world you built, but you also give your players room to explore their characters in ways that aren’t defined by action and combat.
Slice of Life Scenarios
Slice of life game play requires two things to function: life and acceptance. This means that you’ll be hard pressed to do a slice of life section in a desolate dungeon since there’s nothing to interact with. Similarly you’ll be unable to insert your players into a goblin village; they would immediately cause plot lines to form and resolve around non-daily occurrences like intruders in the goblin village.
Good slice of life scenarios might include:
- Exploring a town or village for a day
- Working with archaeologists in an abandoned dungeon
- Studying magic with a wizard
- Training a particular skill or talent for a character
- Experiencing a play or other in-world performance
All of these examples are plot free. The characters simply go about their day and you describe the world around them. It’s worth noting that the players might still find themselves in all sorts of interesting situations, but they are driven by the players themselves. Each scenario gives your players a chance to experience things that would need to be pushed back or removed in normal session.
Your DnD worlds are big and amazing, so it’s okay to take time to stop and enjoy the world you’ve imagined for your players. Just make sure you draw a line between the two types of game play; keep plot-focused sessions lean and on track and remove all urgency and allow players to see the world through their characters senses with slice of life sessions.
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